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Sanchez v. Schwartzapfel

July 17, 2007

CARMEN ANN SANCHEZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LEE SCHWARTZAPFEL, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FM-02-1356-06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued June 5, 2007

Before Judges Kestin and Weissbard.

Plaintiff, Carmen Sanchez, appeals from the dismissal of her complaint against defendant, Lee Schwartzapfel, seeking palimony and related relief. The motion judge found that the complaint was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. We affirm.

We set forth the facts as alleged in the complaint, giving plaintiff the benefit of all favorable inferences flowing from those facts. Plaintiff and defendant met in Florida in 1987, when plaintiff was eighteen and defendant was thirty years of age. At defendant's request, plaintiff relocated to New Jersey where, in July 1987, they began living together in an apartment that defendant purchased in Cliffside Park. While they cohabited, a daughter was born on February 20, 1991, and a son was born on June 13, 1992. There is no doubt that during the period of their cohabitation, defendant and plaintiff held themselves out as husband and wife and, with the children, formed a family unit. Defendant provided financial support while plaintiff managed household affairs and was the primary caregiver for the children. Among other things, they traveled together extensively and defendant bought numerous gifts for plaintiff.

In August 1994, the parties separated following an altercation that led to the filing of a domestic violence complaint by defendant against plaintiff, which was dismissed. They never resumed cohabitation. After their separation, the children remained with plaintiff in the Cliffside Park residence, and defendant paid child support and the household expenses. Defendant also paid other miscellaneous expenses for plaintiff, such as for dental work and for several vacations, as well as providing defendant with transportation, including the use of a BMW automobile.

In 1995, post-separation issues arose, and both parties retained counsel. In the course of that representation, plaintiff's attorney wrote to defendant's attorney on February 10, 1995. After listing the various issues that needed to be addressed, the letter continued as follows:

My client does not intend for Lee Schwartzapfel to support her for the rest of her life. She intends to get on her feet and support herself. If she is not provided with the necessary temporary rehabilitative support, she will be forced to go on state assistance. Clearly, it is important that your client provide temporary support until my client gets married or obtains a position in the nursing field after completion of her nursing school.

I understand that your client does not want to pay for my client's nursing school. Thus, since my client desires and wants to get back into [the] workforce to support herself, she must get the skills needed. If she is not able to get this support she needs to go back to school; she will be forced to return to Florida to receive the assistance she needs from her family. My client was in the Jackson Hospital School of Nursing, located in North Miami when she met Lee. She can return to this school to complete her degree and become employable.

Your client can see his children in Florida for visitations accordingly.

Although your client denies his promises to send her to nursing school up in the North, where my client reported that he stated had the best nursing schools, you surely must understand that it is important that the mother of his children not become a ward of the state.

Even though you repeatedly state that this is not a palimony case and that your client did not promise to marry my client, my client has an engagement ring, the receipt and the appraisal to the engagement ring, plus evidence which indicates that he held my client out to the world as his wife.

In 1996, defendant married another woman. A child was born of that union in February 2000. In November 2004, following an investigation, an order by the Division of Youth and Family Services transferred custody of plaintiff's children to defendant. Plaintiff was granted, and continues to have, visitation with her son, but apparently has had none with her daughter, whom she has not seen for several years. Following the transfer of custody, defendant stopped his $250 weekly support payment. He provided plaintiff with the option of renting the apartment that had been the family residence, but plaintiff declined. Eventually, a court order was entered in the Family Part which gave plaintiff until November ...


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